Our December meeting featured a talk by Redmer Yska, who grew up in Karori,
and has undertaken extensive research into the life of Katherine
Mansfield and recently published the book “A Strange
Beautiful Excitement, Katherine Mansfield’s Wellington 1888-1903”.
Redmer spoke to his book about the life of Katherine
Mansfield’s upbringing in Wellington including the time she spent in
Her childhood memories are recalled especially those of her family
and how they fitted into the social fabric of the Capital at that
One especially exciting find by the author was the discovery of a
poem written by the budding Katherine that hitherto had not been
In September we were lucky enough to hear Local History and Rare Books
Librarian Gábor Tóth, Wellington City Libraries,
present to us on the Western Access Scheme.
For some time in the early 1900’s there had been agitation from
residents of the Western suburbs for a more direct route into the
City rather than the current route that traversed the longer way around
via Tinakori Road and Molesworth street.
In 1920 a survey was undertaken to identify the various options that
could alleviate this problem and as a result 17 were identified. The
most favoured involved the acquisition of land that had been set aside
as Cemetery land. A referendum was held with the intention of raising
£19,000. The results went against the Council and some work had
commenced at the Tinakori road end, the Council had to look at
alternatives.Time elapsed and the next route chosen was a new one that
skirted around cemetery land and the unemployed manpower scheme, created
during the depression, was used to undertake initial work. Although this
work proceeded there was still a problem at the City end where the
Government was not prepared to let the new road use Museum Street as
part of the route. After some negotiation the Council was able to
purchase land immediately adjacent to the northern boundary of the
Cemetery and this allowed them to bypass Museum Street. Progress
continued and after some issues with land slips that necessitated the
building of large retaining walls, the road was completed in late 1939
and then opened for tramway traffic in August 1940. Bowen Street was
named after Sir George Ferguson Bowen, New Zealand’s 6th Governor (1868
to 1873) and initially ran from the Lambton Quay gates of Parliament up
to the Terrace.
When the new road was formed in the late 1930’s it was regarded as an
extension of the existing Bowen Street and named accordingly.
In June we were lucky to hear Ben Schrader talk about his book 'The Big Smoke: New Zealand Cities 1840-1920'.
Ben’s presentation took us through the early history of New Zealand and detailed the development of urban areas. He
discussed how our cities grew the way they did, in what ways did Māori experience and shape cities; and posed questions around the future of our cities and whether they reflect where we have come from.
The talk was a taster of his book, which reveals how our urban origins have shaped the people we are today. If you are interested in finding out more, or missed the talk, check out http://bwb.co.nz/books/big-smoke
Our speaker in March was Mary McEwen, who told us about her father in law, Jock McEwen,
‘If you want to have a good life, you do it helping other people.’ Jock McEwen
Jock McEwen was a administrator, historian, linguist, composer and master carver, also remembered as a well-known figure in the
Māori world and the wider Pacific for over half a century.
Our speaker in December was Gordon Tait, a long term Karori resident whose presentation was titled “Karori Cemetery Field Guide and Tour.
Gordon had prepared a number of handouts which he referred to during his talk.
The main handout covered the general layout of the Cemetery, the different types of graves, i.e. Monumental, Lawn, Wall (niche) and the War Cemetery.
Another interesting handout was a field guide to gravestone symbols and their meaning plus another being a series of 8 photographs taken around Karori
designed to test general knowledge as to whether people could recognise their location.
A well-researched and presented delivery, the handouts being especially useful as an aid for those just walking through or exploring the cemetery grounds.
At the conclusion of his presentation Gordon was thanked by Jo Elworthy and given a book voucher in appreciation.
You can access Gordon’s handouts via our Facebook page
For our September meeting we had a tour of the Wellington City Council’s Archives, based at 28 Barker Street near to the Basin Reserve.
City Archives is a treasure trove of information documenting the history and development of Wellington. Primarily holding records of the
Wellington City Council and its predecessor organisations (including Karori Borough Council), the Archives also hold the records of the
Union Steamship Company on behalf of Museum Wellington, as well as a small collection of community archives.
After a talk by the president outlining the work Archives does, what records they hold and how the collection can be accessed and researched,
members got to browse selected items from the collection and go on a tour throughout the premises.
The Archives are located at 28 Barker Street, which is off Cambridge Terrace by the Basin Reserve.
You can find out more via the Council website: http://wellington.govt.nz/your-council/archives
Barbara Mulligan and David Cuthbert gave an insightful presentation on ‘ghost’ branch railway lines across New
Zealand. This was linked to the book they published, New Zealand Rail Trails, which explores the long
forgotten railway branch lines, some of which date back to the 1870s.
The speakers covered both a history of the growth then decline of the rail network, as well as an overview of
their journey across New Zealand to discover and document the lines.
Our speaker in March was Glenn Reddiex, author and Karori resident who spoke about his recent book “Just to Let You Know I Am Still Alive – Postcards from New Zealanders during the First World War”
The book is dedicated to World War One postcards mostly sent back to New Zealand by Servicemen serving stationed in Egypt, Gallipoli, France, Belgium and England. It is richly illustrated showing not just the illustration on the front, but the message written on the back, mostly to family and relatives.
It presented a fascinating glimpse into an ordinary soldier’s life and daily routine without the horror of war as this was excluded by censors.
His website is www.postcard.org.nz to find out more online about Glenn.
We had a good turnout for our December talk, which saw Dr Chris Pugsley, an expert on New Zealand Military history,
present a fascinating account of “New Zealand’s Experience at Gallipoli”
Dr Pugsley canvassed the Gallipoli campaign from the outset of WWI in 1914 and the lead up to the
NZ Expeditionary Force setting out for Europe and while in Egypt, its diversion to the Turkish front in
conjunction with Australian and other British Forces.
He spoke of the battles NZ troops engaged in, the loss of life and the general conditions that the soldiers were
forced to suffer.
A frequent visitor to the Gallipoli Peninsula, Dr Pugsley was able to supplement his oral presentation with many
maps and photographs extracted from the numerous books he has written about the NZEF in WWI.
A most interesting presentation given in the centennial year of the Gallipoli Campaign.
Oliver Sutherland presented a talk on ‘Ivan Sutherland (1897-1952): academic and social
activist'. The talk outlined in fascinating detail the range of activities Ivan took on or was
involved in, from attacking the rise of the eugenics movement, campaigning for public radio
and helping to launch the Wellington Film Society. Together with friend and colleague
Professor Philip Robertson, he was a patron of the controversial Wellington-based English artist
His commitment to social psychology drew him into the world of Ngati Porou where Sir Apirana
Ngata became a second mentor and lifelong friend. In his 1935 publications The Maori
Situation Sutherland denounced pakeha ‘racialism’ and affirmed his commitment to a
bicultural New Zealand and to Ngata’s vision for the economic, cultural and social development
June 2015 Meeting - AGM
The following officers were elected at the AGM:
President, Adrian Humphris
Vice-President, Jan Heynes
Secretary, Henry Brittain
Treasurer, Valerie Carter
One committee member resigned, Jeni Bryant, and we had a new committee member
elected, Wendy Lynch. We welcome Wendy and pass on thanks to Jeni for her
time on committee.
We had a number of speakers in June, all with the theme of war-related stories. Kay
Klitscher spoke about white poppies and white feathers. Peter Anderson
told us about three of his relatives who served in both World Wars, with
accompanying memorabilia including a photograph of his grandfather’s war
service scroll, a carved tokotoko (walking stick), a carved smoking pipe
and a bugle. Bob Cameron gave a power point presentation about the WWI
letters written by Leslie Gower, which Bob recovered from a suitcase at a
Dunbar Sloane auction. Bob was then responsible for locating some of Leslie’s relatives.
Adrian Humphris and Geoff Mew, authors of Built Wellington - Raupo to
Art Deco gave a very interesting power point presentation about their
latest book. It is a very comprehensive history featuring some of the most
prominent architects in Wellington and their buildings together with
illustrations of these.
Vincent O’Malley gave a very
interesting and comprehensive talk about ‘the upsurge of interest in the
New Zealand wars’ particularly relating to the Waikato region. The
Waikato war was important as it was a turning point in the development of
NZ and lead to the capital shifting to Wellington, and the introduction of
Julius Vogel’s schemes. But until recently these wars have been
sanitised and attention has been on commemorating WWI. However, Vincent
considered that there is now a more even handed effort to acknowledge what
Vincent’s talk created a considerable amount of discussion amongst members.
Dr Rodney Grapes talked on ‘The 1848 earthquakes and the destruction of
Wellington’ He described a cluster of earthquakes that occurred in
Wellington between 16 and 26 October 1848. Some of these were quite
severe, probably bigger than the later 1855 quakes, and caused
considerable damage. The Lt Governor of the day, Eyre, undertook a survey
of the damage and then sent a report back to England outlining the events.
This created some apprehension amongst intending immigrants but with no
long term effect. The earthquakes were not just confined to Wellington but
also to the top of the South Island where damage was recorded as far south
as Kaikoura. Judge Chapman wrote about the earthquakes in his journals
which also give an interesting record of life in the 1840’s.
Priscilla Williams, former diplomat and current president of the
Bolton Street Cemetery, gave a very interesting and informative talk about
the history of the cemetery, referring in particular to the role which the
late Margaret Alington had played in ensuring the preservation and
documentation of the tombstones, writing a history of the cemetery –
Unquiet Earth – and the establishment of the Friends of the Bolton
Judy Siers gave a very
lively and interesting presentation about the work she has done preparing
for the publication of her forthcoming book called Arrivals: Six
Judy was a Wellington City Councilor for a number of years in the 1990s and
became the Council’s advocate for Wellington heritage and history. She
was also a member of the Onslow Historical Society and its president for a
number of years. She has been a member of the Historic Places Trust since
the 1960s and a member of the committee.
What a great meeting we had in December. We thank all our loyal
members and friends who came to hear our speaker and to celebrate our 40th
birthday. How lucky we were to have Norma McCallum and her husband with
us. As the Society’s first president Norma has a special place in our
history and we were very pleased her husband was able to persuade her to come for a
mystery drive. She was also thrilled to receive her life membership
certificate and to help in
cutting our celebratory cake.
Julia Millen was a very lively speaker
and brought to life the story of Sergeant Bruce Crowley DCM, a New Zealand
prisoner of war in Greece and Germany who escaped from captivity. She has
written a book about him (North to the Apricots) and members were able to
purchase copies. Bruce’s son Grant was also present and he was able to
fill in some gaps about Bruce as a father and to show some family
Tricia Laing spoke about ‘Karori Bees and Beekeepers’: where they are located in Karori and the
importance of backyard beekeeping. She showed photos of her hives, and
discussed the life cycle of bees and some of the challenges bees and
beekeepers face in Karori.
Susan Price spoke about the childhood
of her father Hugh Price who had had a difficult childhood in Masterton
because of mobility problems and unsympathetic school teachers. She based
her talk around the book she had written ‘A Mind of his Own’ and
illustrated it with photos from the book. Hugh became a well know
publisher in Wellington in his adult life.
Joanna Newman from the Mt Victoria Historical Society gave an illustrated talk
about aspects of Mt Victoria's history and its importance to Wellington.
The main focus of the talk was on the Basin Reserve Heritage and the
values of this iconic area of Wellington.
Trevor Morley was a very entertaining speaker and as well as giving an
excellent account of policing in Wellington in the early 1900's.
He also brought along some of his collection of artefacts, including old Police
truncheons. His account of the events leading up to Constable Dudding's
murder reminded us of the changes which have taken place in policing. We
also heard that it was due to Trevor's persistance that policemen who
had been murdered in the course of duty were recognised by the police
Our speaker was Lydia Wevers, the title of her talk was 'Sensation
Novels and Colonial Readers' - about reading in the nineteenth century
in relation to her book Reading on the Farm.
Professor Wevers is Director of the Stout Research Centre for New Zealand. She is
a distinguished post graduate researcher and writer with a long list of
published work on New Zealand and Australian literature; several of the
books have focused on early New Zealand travel writing and writers.
Our speaker was John Harper, committee member and Emeritus Professor of
Applied Mathematics, Victoria University of Wellington. His topic was Transits of Venus
As there will be a transit of Venus the day after the meeting and there
will be no more over the next 100 years, John's talk is very
appropriate. It will emphasise matters of historical interest rather
than astronomical technicalities and cover questions such as: What are
they? When do they occur? Why are they important enough for expeditions
to be sent to observe them? Why did Karori's most eminent historian ask
the speaker about them? What does one see? How was New Zealand affected?
Our speaker was Vicki Treadwell, British High Commissioner spoke to us about
her diplomatic career. This was a fascinating and entertaining account
from a highly experienced diplomat.
Our speaker Richard Nanson gave a very interesting and informative talk
about his own career, over 50 years and something about the history of
the garden at Homewood. Richard was head of the WCC's Parks &
Recreation section from 1967-92. He was made a Fellow of the Royal NZ
Institute of Horticulture in 1970 and became a member of the Order of
New Zealand in 2011 for services to horticulture. Following his talk we
enjoyed refreshments in the reception room at Homewood.
Our speaker was Jenny Jones, who spoke about her book "No
Simple Passage", the story of her great-grandparents journey to
New Zealand on the London in 1842.
Our speaker was Joseph Romanos, editor of the Wellingtonian and
Karori resident. Joseph gave an interesting, informative and witty talk
aboout his involvement with the publication of books, about sport and
the triumphs and disasters that inevitably occur.
Our guest speaker was Janice Shramka (Karori West Normal School Principal), she spoke about her
use of the Woolf Fisher Fellowship for overseas study travel. She visited schools in Canada and the United Kingdom and attended
a course at Harvard entitled "Leadership: An Evolving Vision".
Guest Speakers: there were two speakers, Adrian Humphris and Geoff Mew, joint editors of the
book “Ring Around the City” which outlines the growth of Kilbirnie and Kelburn in the early part of the 20th century.
Adrian’s address focused on how the transport system, especially tramcars, opened up the city and suburbs, while Geoff
concentrated on the style of homes that were built during this period. Both speakers complimented their presentation with power point photographs.